Posts Tagged ‘strip patterns’

Experimenting and Learning Through Projects And Collaborations

Saturday, December 6th, 2014

On the Quiltart list this morning a member described a group project which in truth is better termed a collaboration.  Whatever you call it though – this project required identification of common goals and comittment to achieving them through a group-made art quilt.  What was missing from the post is any analysis of  how the idea came up, how the group came to decide to carry it out, and why – what the expectations of the group were to start with.  Clearly some dropped out because of technical challenges faced, and others didn’t drop out because of  loyalties they felt to the group.  Deeper examination before hand, though, might have meant the project didn’t happen at all and at least some of the group may not have learned what they did in the process.

Some of the real problems such projects can present are described in April’s words:  “We all learned quite a bit along the way as this piece was way outside the comfort zone of all of us. I think that the piece will be quite amazing when it is completed, but it has been quite a struggle seeing it to fruition. Some people dropped out as soon as things became difficult and challenging; and others stuck with it even though they had no real interest in the project, but they were reluctant to abandon the group. It has been an interesting example of group dynamics to say the least. But it doesn’t really matter, as we are all still close friends.”   You can visit the   April Sproule  post  to find out more about their project, and see pics of how it developed technically.   

In my early art quilt making days I belonged to a small SE Denver group we called “Quilt Explorations”, which we formed to explore non-traditional quiltmaking, and we focused on design in particular.  We often set ‘themes’ for monthly individual exploration, and participation was optional, so the results were truly individual, and varied depending on each person’s interest and drive, time available, etc. The most successful theme, where everyone was enthused to produce something, was based on the b/w picture of the front end of a gorgeous vintage car given to each of us by the member who suggested the exercise..  We each took some element from that photo on which to at least design a small quilt, even if  time was too short  to actually make it.  Everyone came back a month later with at least the design, most had started and some had completed a small quilt.  After 2 months we had a collection of  about 10 finished quilts.  At the next group exhibition these were all hung together to show the diversity of results  when people work from exactly the same initial image.  I don’t still have that photo, but found this image of the kind of pic we all received:vintage car - strip lighting 2 blog


In about 1991-2 I was in love with inserted straight strips, having not yet heard of life-transforming freehand or improvisational piecing which prompted the technical experiments to achieve the curvy inset strips characteristic of my 1992+ Colour Memories quilts.  With strips on my mind ,the headlights of the car caught my attention.  I produced this small wall quilt about  50cm sq.  I called ‘Strip Lighting’


Strip Lighting


We never did a group collaboration – I doubt anyone would have suggested it as were were all clearly set along our own paths when the group came together,  and such a project would have felt a diversion of dubious value from our individual goals. I have never been drawn to a collaborative project to produce a work / works of art, and maybe will explore this in a later post…. and perhaps I need to do some self examination on the matter first!


Similarities Inevitable At Times, UPDATED

Sunday, April 27th, 2014

A member of the QuiltArt list this morning referred to ‘Scott Murkin’s technique’,  and I thought  “Hmmm, I wonder what that is….”  (As I don’t get the popular quilt magazines and books these days, its easy to be out of touch with the very latest)  Anyway, it turned out to be freehand or improvisational piecing, anyway!     And when I went online to find out about Scott’s work I found this site, , and there is a quilt

scott murkin

that looked to me very like an adaptation and re-arrangement of blocks from one of my own bushfire quilts .  They have a great deal in common, I’m sure you’ll agree, but I’m not suggesting that this is in anyway ‘copying’ something I did ages ago:

Bushfire 4 adjusted blog copy

Bushfire 4      1999

 I think it is inevitable that  quilt makers using the same techniques in similar colours, will sometimes produce similar looking works.  We can usually tell looking at someone’s work who they studied with, since, for a while after that workshop their new work reflects what they have learned, but in time their work reflects more of the artist and increasingly less of the teacher.  It’s why I myself no longer attend technique-driven workshops, but they are the bread and butter of the quilt making industry, of course.

“Scott Murkin’s” technique is what I and many others learned nearly 25 years ago from Nancy Crow – not that I ever called it ‘Nancy Crow’s technique’ because for her, technique has only ever been the means to her end – in the classroom it was to speed the process of exploring colour and design, and working through her long list of class exercises was only really possible via cutting and piecing freehand/improvisationally.
But actually, it wasn’t her technique, either.  It was developed by a Canadian quiltmaker, Marilyn Stothers who Nancy used to take into the classes she was teaching at Houston in the late 80’s and early 90’s and have Marilyn show her students how to do it.   Nancy then began teaching it herself as a method useful in her classes on colour and design.  As we all know, today there are many contemporary quilt makers working this way all over the world, and it has become a contemporary quilt making tradition, if you can say such a thing…. and yes, I think we can.

Since learning the basics, I’ve always worked this way, and taught many students how to cut and piece freehand.  I’ve no doubt someone uses “Alison Schwabe’s technique” to describe their own improvisational piecing, but I claim no ownership.  If you’d like to have a go at it, email me for the basic instructions (2 pages incl, diagrams and links)  and I’ll email it by return.  There’s enormous interest in piecing like this.

Last month I taught my “Hot Quilts From Cold Scraps” workshop in Dongara Western Australia, and Hobart Tamsnaia Aus.  I always promote the class as being about planning and making successful scrap quilts, and one in which people who work via traditional geometric piecing will be alongside those who are piecing improvisationally.  In other words, how you piece is up to you, and you just need to come to class knowing how to piece one way or the  other, it’s not a beginners’ class.  I always say I don’t actually teach  freehand piecing in class, as there isn’t usually time even in the 2-day version, and so if you want to work that way you need to learn the basics at home before the workshop.  That usually works well, and one or two people always ask me for those instructions in advance.  In Dongara there were about 20 enthusiasts in the class – fabulous facilities accommodated them easily – and about 1/3 went to work piecing traditionally, the rest improvisationally.  They produced some wonderful work, and everyone achieved plenty of it.    The class in Hobart blew me away though.   I had been a bit concerned at the low number registered, and anticipated the group dynamics might be a bit unexciting among only 7 of them. But not in this case – all had very strong individual approaches and a couple did interesting things no one has previously produced, including myself! Some already knew improvisational piecing, and the 2 or 3 who didn’t clearly did want to work that way.  So once everyone was into their  exercises before branching off in their individual directions, in such a small group it was easy to teach them the basic methods by demonstrations using the samples I had with me.  They were all dead keen and very quick on the uptake. 

Thanks to Pat and Susan who both supplied Marilyn’s correct surname which I’d used wrongly in the first version of this post!  I have corrected and edited the post to include the gracious corrections I received from Marylin herself, whose website presents her and her exciting work in some detail – and I can only say after looking at it that we don’t hear enough of her.

A Journey Through Landscape

Saturday, March 22nd, 2014

An article has just been published about my work on the Quilt National Artists website here:  To compose it I looked back through the 4 works I’ve had selected into Quilt National down the years, and while putting them into their context, the title emerged.  Each has to do with landscape as the surface on which change is recorded, and marks are left.  It took me years to see a link between a landscape and a life.  You can read about it and see the pics of the 4 quilts in chronological order down the page, starting with “Ora Banda”, just a little special because it was my first successful entry.

Ora Banda copy blog

“Ora Banda”  1992      127cm h x 150cm w

I pieced it before leaving Denver to accompany my husband to South America on a business trip, and did all the hand quilting while in Montevideo and Mendoza, Argentina.   I never look at it without remembering the beautiful plaza in front of our hotel there, and how I sat out in the early autumn sun for a couple of hours every afternoon to quilt during the hours of siesta.  Autumn leaves were falling.  Occasionally people would stop and ask what I was doing and comment – goodness knows what they made of whatever I said, as I knew very little Spanish then!


New Work, Featuring Green

Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013

mostly about green web


With working title  ‘Mostly about Green’,  this is a detail of a work in progress, showing  the wonderful black chintz background before and after quilting.   The quilting along the edges of the strip inserts is very bright green, fluorescent.   Green is my absolute  favourite colour, just in case the red one I posted a week or two back  fooled you  ;-p    This one belongs to my Ebb & Flow series, certainly, and although both are about colour, I think the ‘Mostly About Red’ one one belongs to the Tracks series.   If you read both series statements you might agree or not, and feel free to comment – but it’s my say !

May I Have A Pattern for this Quilt, Please?

Sunday, October 20th, 2013

Window Onto Bougainville Street

Window Onto Bougainville Street,  1992,   132cm x 102cm

Last week I had an email from a quilter, Jan in Australia, who apparently loves this quilt she saw in magazine article, and asked if there’s a pattern available.  I am always happy to help others who want to try working how I do – which is essentially what a request for a pattern is about, even though all my ‘patterns’ are essentially make-it-up-as-you-go-along.  Seriously.  But I replied, and this post is based on what I sent back to her.

I told her I didn’t mean to sound difficult when I said there is and there isn’t a pattern to this quilt.   When I made it, 20+ years ago, I used this kind of design several times, working from a pencil diagram on a blank page, which is pretty much all the pattern I need and use.   I added a few notes or lists of colours or ideas for further exploration, then started cutting.   To me a line is a seam, and if I see some wonderful lines and shapes I can adapt for a patchwork pattern, I draw a simple diagram.   So looking at that quilt, you can see it’s just a divided square, and then each segment has a strip added on one side before putting all the segments together.  Other quilts made with this method include several in my  “Colour Memories”  gallery .  For this one, it was the first of a series I designed this way, and I think I cut a square from cardboard and marked dots along the edge so every square would have exactly the same angles – these days I’d do it totally freehand, and it would look different but the same – certainly much more ‘modern’ and ‘arty’  – and now that I think of it, after 20 years,  I might just use this idea again in a different way.  Keep an eye on this blog!

Using a blank worksheet from my ‘Hot Quilts From Cold Scraps” workshop handouts, I diagrammed out the following directions:

window onto bougainville street blog

To make this quilt from this block design, you’d start with a fabric piece larger than you want to finish up with  (I think “Window Onto Bougainville Street” squares are 9″ maybe 10″)  and then when all the piecing’s done, trim each block to size.  Yes, of course there’ll be some bits left over – scraps – and I suggest several ways to use these, too, in the workshop – so it isn’t wasteful at all.  I always keep useful sized scraps and segments of trimmed off bits, and use them in new works.  The strips were cut 1″ with a ruler, on the grain, and using 1/4″ seam allowance that shows 1/2″ on the front when done. If you cut them a bit narrower, showing on the front will be narrower.  Work out how many squares of which size you want.  I’d suggest at least one fabric common to every square to unify them.  You could add sashings and borders if you like – its up to you!

In my “Hot Quilts From Cold Scraps” workshop people either use a traditional pattern of their own choice, or learn how easy it is to come up with a pattern of their own to use as we explore the factors that make for successful true scrap quilts.   Then they either choose to cut the fabrics using a ruler or templates or pattern pieces (ie work traditionally)  or they can choose to cut freehand, which is known as “improvisational piecing” either way’s fine with me.  If you’d like to try improvisational piecing, which I call freehand piecing, I found this great little tutorial of the absolute basics –  and am always  here to help if you have any difficulty(send me a pic and description of the problem) but I’m predicting you won’t have any.

Certainly everyone in the Hot Quilts workshop is most likely working on something different as we all explore the principles of designing successful scrap quilts.  I myself always piece freehand these days, ever since learning how just after I made this quilt – eg check out my website gallery “Ebb & Flow”    After the segments are pieced I often trim to a geometric shape using a ruler, as I love the grid layout thing.

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